Yes, it’s about more than a toxic, power-through-fear pastor. It’s more even than the board. It’s about the culture.

Yes, too, spiritual abuse is pervasive and it is, as she says, like living in a bad dream. Excellent image. That’s what it is like.

From Aimee Byrd’s recent post about A Church called Tov:

What I love about this book is that the authors frame it around the culture that enables abuse and how to nurture a culture of goodness that a church should be. Abusers abuse because they can, and it’s time for pastors and elders to stop evading responsibility for their own participation in this destructiveness in God’s household. I’m using strong words here. I’ve used softer words before: the hardest thing to make sense of for many is the role of the community. The community themselves may not be abusive people. We could be talking about the friends of the abuser, the leadership in the church of the abuser, or the organization and alliances they are a part of. They are even harder to confront because it’s hard to take responsibility for being complicit in abuse when you yourself hate abuse. It’s hard to see you’ve been manipulated, you’ve enabled, or that you’ve misaligned your priorities at the cost of others. But there has to be a community that “cooperates with the abuser to maintain the performance needed to keep the structure intact.”

It’s never just a few bad apples; it’s a system that nurtures them. We need to talk about the culture in our churches. …

Spiritual abuse can be like living in a bad dream—not only because you can’t believe this is happening, but because none of the people you are going to for help are functioning as they should. The whole setting is off and you are trying to make any sense of it. The more I study about abuse tactics, the more I see just how unoriginal sin is. Manipulation works for a reason. The chapter on false narratives can be like the field guide to help you see what’s really going on in this ‘only if it really could be a bad dream.’ In an abusive culture, you are not cared for. This one took a while to sink in for me. So, abusers will take control of the way people perceive the story. This is traumatic for a truth-teller who is already hurt by the abuse, as their whole world becomes dismantled. The abuser uses all kinds of tactics, minimizing the offense, gaslighting the victim and the leadership (this can be incredibly traumatizing), leveling the playing field or often turning the tables, switching the order of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. This can be all be done in covert ways, which is like that bad dream when you are the only one with eyes to see and no one seems to believe you. Or they do, only to end up negotiating with an abuser. As one friend put it, we all affirm the wolf in sheep’s clothing in our Bible studies, we just don’t seem to know any. We don’t want to look at it. We don’t want to see. Nothing is more traumatizing for a victim of abuse than when they have to experience this ugliness alone, with no empathetic witness and protection.